When I decided to write about Project 54, I wanted to bring awareness to the great work they are doing. As I wrote that post, instead of focusing on the organization and promoting them, it turned into more of a personal story. I talked about my experience serving on Skid Row. I had some amazing conversations, learned about the homeless and their situation, and also about my passions and purpose. Project 54 is a great organization, and I want to take some time explaining why they do what they do, and why you should support them.
Who is Project 54?
I had the pleasure of sitting down with Kyle, the founder of Project 54, and talking about why he started the organization. He told me some crazy stories. One day a man stopped him in the middle of the street, and started yelling at Kyle that he needs to lead the people of Skid Row. Kyle didn’t know what he was talking about at the time, but it planted a seed inside of him. He felt challenged. How was he supposed to help people?
One of the first things he felt called to do was buy some bibles. There’s an overwhelming sense of hopelessness on skid row. If he could get a bible in their hands, who knows what could happen? So he went out and bought 300 bibles with his own money. He didn’t have a plan, he just trusted God. Before he could even pass them out, he learned that a local charity who serves the homeless needed bibles, and he donated all 300 of them.
Fast forward, and they’ve expanded to a weekly Tuesday night bible study, a monthly brunch, and many other avenues of outreach. Kyle didn’t wait for donations to come in. He saw a need, and he started making stuff happen. There’s something empowering about simply trusting God to provide. Often times we put all these requirements on God that get in the way. IF I had the money. IF I had the time. Sometimes you need to step out in faith, and let God be in control. What started out as one guy trusting God has turned into a growing organization of people using their gifts to spread the love of Christ.
It’s inspiring to hear him talk, and see how raw and selfless our love for other people can be. Kyle stressed that it’s not about him. It’s about helping people, and trusting that God will use us to do amazing things.
Putting a Face on Homelessness
Kyle is passionate about humanizing the homeless. Prior to visiting Skid Row, my experience with the homeless was limited to the people panhandling on freeway off-ramps. They were nameless, didn’t have a story, and I could avoid eye contact and ignore them.
When you sit down and talk with someone, you can’t ignore them. They have a name and a history. These are real people, who through real circumstances, have ended up where they are. There’s something so simple about what Project 54 has created. They’ve setup an environment where we can serve and talk to the homeless. Some of the volunteers are forming friendships with the homeless. I’ve watched the volunteers excitement when they see a friend. I’ve seen them joke around. When something bad happens on skid row, I’ve seen their hearts break. Through those friendships they are able to love them, to help them, and to talk to them about Jesus.
This past Saturday I saw some of the same people that I saw last month. I acknowledged them. I have empathy for them. They have a name, and a story. We can find appropriate ways to help them, and develop relationships. This is how you love the “least of these.” By building those relationships, we’re opening the door for the Holy Spirit.
Life Can Be Better Without Being Perfect
Project 54 has given me a new perspective on homelessness. Before, the homeless problem seemed insurmountable. How do you solve such a difficult problem? And for me, “solve” meant getting them off the street, a good job, housing, and everything has to be perfect.
What I realized is that you don’t have to solve the problem to show the love of Jesus. When you sit down and talk with someone, and tell them about Jesus, their life can be better than it was, even if it’s not perfect. It can be better in the ways that matter the most. They might walk back to their tent moments later, but they’ve heard about Jesus. They’ve experienced the love of Jesus. They’re having a relationship with people that they thought had written them off.
The situation may not be fixed in the materialistic way that I want, but maybe it’s being fixed in a far more important, and spiritual way?
Serving for THEM
One of the key purposes of Project 54 is to serve the homeless. We’re called to serve the poor, and I love the way Project 54 is doing that. They’re not simply handing out food. They’re building relationships.
Every Tuesday night, volunteers show up on Skid Row to run a bible study. This past Saturday as we served food and talked to people, it was the perfect opportunity to bring up the bible study. “You know they have a bible study every Tuesday?” I’m terrible at asking people to church. They’ll probably say no, or they think I’m trying to “fix” them. But telling the homeless about a bible study? They were excited. Almost as excited as when we told them we were having Lobster Chowder at brunch. “Bible study? That sounds like something I need to go to.”
They’ve been able to help people through these relationships. Kyle told me how one man said he wanted to kill himself, but he didn’t want to let everyone at bible study down. We can’t even begin to fathom the outcomes of these relationships, here on earth, and eternally.
Serving for US
I’m convinced that Christ called us to serve others because of the impact it has on our own lives. I went to Skid Row with this mission of helping people, because I want to follow Christ and obey him, but I didn’t realize how much it would change me.
When we wash the feet of another, it’s an exercise in humility. We set aside the concerns we have for ourselves, and become concerned for someone else. Through this we learn to love like Jesus. I’ve seen some of the other volunteers interact with the homeless, and their joyful attitudes are infectious. I still have so far to go.
For me, it’s super uncomfortable. I can blame being an introvert, but the real reason is probably because I’m such an expert in selfishness. Not being selfish only feels weird because it’s something I hardly ever do. As I grow as a Christian, and try and align my will more closely with God’s, I should find myself more in tune with God’s purpose for my life.
What Can You Do?
First, I encourage you to come volunteer. Step out of your comfort zone, see what Project 54 is doing, and ask God to use you in ways you can’t even imagine. Not only can you be a blessing to the homeless population, but they can be a blessing to you. If your passion lies somewhere else, that’s fine, but maybe this is the experience you need to start moving in the right direction.
Secondly, I want to challenge you to support Project 54 financially. If you can’t come to Skid Row yourself, I hope you’ll be willing to back those that do. The group has ongoing costs to purchase bibles, toiletries, supply food, and rent warehouse space for the bible study. Kyle is fully willing to let God lead the way, but like most things, it doesn’t happen for free.
If you find the work they’re doing compelling, and want to help a population of people that so badly need to feel loved, then I encourage you to commit to supporting Project 54 monthly. Whether it’s the first charity you’ll be supporting or the 5th, surrendering our finances is an exercise in surrendering to God. Pray about it, and if God is putting it on your heart, you can donate below.
Photos are courtesy of Sposto Photography.